The Hamilton County Fair is moving 22 miles north from Chester Frost Park in Hixson to the newly acquired McDonald Farm property in Sale Creek, which organizers say will allow them to focus on the original intent of the fair - showcasing livestock and agriculture - and will provide the opportunity for future growth, according to Chairman Tom Lamb.
But first, the 2022 version, set for Oct. 1-2, will need to shrink in size.
"The infrastructure that is there was built to accommodate the (McDonald) family that lived there," Lamb said by phone, pointing out that there isn't enough electricity and water for a large-scale music event or a midway, currently, but there is plenty of room on the 2,170-acre property for those to be added in coming years. The county bought the farm in December 2021 for $16 million.
"It will be a miniature version this year, but having the farm and the structures that are there means there is opportunity to focus on those things related to livestock and agriculture," Lamb said.
Lamb said an added bonus to moving the location is that the 4-H and Future Farmers of America organizations are active and strong in the Sale Creek area.
The Hamilton County Fair dates back to 1915 and has been called a variety of things and presented by different organizations over the years. The last county fair was held in 2019 at Chester Frost Park. Parking is limited there, and Lamb said buses had to be rented and a fee charged to patrons to cover that cost.
Parking will not be an issue at McDonald Farm, Lamb said.
"One of our biggest limiting factors at Chester Frost Park was the shuttle buses because they cost us a lot of money and we had to charge patrons," Lamb said. "There will be fantastic opportunity to come and go now. Plus, it is a beautiful piece of property with lots of elevation changes, creeks, wooded areas. It's beautiful."
Lamb said the board, which is comprised of folks who have been involved with past fairs, now called Hamilton County Fair Inc., is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. He said the board has not determined the admission price for this year's event, but "it will be family-friendly and affordable," Lamb said.
The 2019 fair had around 30 craft vendors, 20 food vendors and at least 40 exhibitors and nonprofit organizations, Lamb said.
Renita "Shorty" Beaty is the soil conservation district representative for Hamilton County and does a lot of outreach with county school students throughout the year. She used to bring a petting zoo to the fair but this year will concentrate on the Farmer for a Day program she designed.
Participants - mostly young children, but some adults do participate, she said - will be given a locally made basket and tasked with gathering eggs and then different colored fruits. They will then root through a pool full of feed corn looking for different vegetables, and then they will trade the produce they've gathered for a coloring book at the market.
Their last task will be to milk a fake cow that Beaty has had made for the event.
"It's a lot of fun, and they get to learn about where their protein and fiber comes from," she said via phone.